After 20 years and $5.5 million in community wellness grants, the Partnership of Community Resources remains, in the words of Executive Director Cheryl Bricker, “one of Douglas County’s best-kept secrets.”
Created in 1993 as an umbrella organization to collect information and provide resources to promote community wellness and prevention programs, the Partnership recently celebrated its 20th anniversary with an open house.
While the location has changed frequently, the Partnership’s mission has remained the same:
“Providing a network of citizens, businesses, and agencies for cooperation, planning and interaction to maximize resources and address the changing needs of our community through substance abuse prevention and wellness promotion.”
Bricker has been executive director since 1999.
“I never had the same job for 14 years before,” she said. “This job gives me variety and constant challenges. I am not opposed to change. I always look forward to it.”
She is the first to point out that there is no Partnership without the staff, board of directors, and the community.
“The ‘glass’ at the Partnership is always more than half full,” she said.
At the open house, guests leafed through eight binders stuffed with newspaper articles, photographs and flyers that chronicled the agency’s history since 1993.
Sandy Lopez, Jessica Drinkwine and Michael Magno watched their high school years pass by on a huge screen in the cozy living room of the Partnership, now housed in the old Methodist church parsonage.
“I spent middle and high school years with STOP (Students Taking on Prevention),” Lopez said as she picked her name and picture out of newspaper articles that flashed by on the screen. “I can see my whole past.”
Lopez, 21, is a student at Morrison University in Reno, and hopes to earn her degree in information systems in 2015.
“It’s nice to be here and see all my old friends, to see where we started and how far we’ve come,” Lopez said.
She lives her life according to principles she developed in STOP.
“I am ‘Straight Edge,’” she said. “I made a lifelong pledge not to drink or smoke, and to practice abstinence. STOP played a big role in those decisions, and I stand by that.”
Drinkwine, 19, said before she joined STOP, she lacked confidence.
“I didn’t really do anything,” she said. “Then, I met Linda (Gilkerson) and just got involved.”
“I broke out of my shyness and learned to be bold,” she said.
In seventh grade, she was making speeches.
“STOP shaped most of us. It’s who we are and what made us become the people we wanted to be,” Drinkwine said.
She was a STOP member from seventh through 12th grades.
Magno, 22, is a student at the University of Nevada, Reno, Orvis School of Nursing.
He joined Partnership in seventh grade.
“I was very dedicated. I enjoyed the program, the values and the morals. It instilled a good sense of community and volunteering. Because of STOP, I developed a passion for helping others.
“STOP keeps kids out of trouble and helps others at the same time. It kept me busy in high school. I am so proud to have been part of this organization. My life has turned out way beyond what I could have imagined,” he said.
One of the guests at the open house was Ellen Perkins, who served as the Partnership’s first executive director.
“I am so proud to have been part of this organization,” she said. “It has moved way beyond what I could have imagined.”
In the organization’s 20-year history, Partnership has collected about $5.5 million in funding from grants and fundraising to support substance abuse prevention, wellness promotion and community collaboration in Douglas County.
When Bricker took over, she said she didn’t know what the executive director did, or how to manage a nonprofit.
So, she took at course at the University of Nevada, Reno.
“It’s a little bit like running a small business,” she said. “We have a bottom line, work with the public and engage in customer service. I love the collaborative aspect.”
She said it’s important to acknowledge that the board of directors is made up of busy community representatives who have other jobs.
“There has to be a degree of trust and open lines of communication,” she said.
Over the years, Bricker said she’s learned it’s OK to disagree.
“I rule by team, and that was never more evident when I became sick,” she said.
Bricker has survived two bouts with cancer.
In 2007, she was treated for breast cancer, and in 2010, leukemia.
Both years, she missed several months of work at the insistence of her board and staff who covered for her.
“The board was so protective of me. I had to get their permission to come back to work,” she said. “Everybody stuck by me.”
Bricker said she is cancer-free and optimistic.
“I’ve had so many hair changes,” she said, patting her red curls. “You’ve got to have a sense of humor.”
What hasn’t changed is her passion for the Partnership.
“When I signed the lease for this place, I didn’t realize right away the Partnership had used these offices before — it was one of our first locations. That made me really look at what we’re doing today, and what the founding members wanted
We provide a collaborative relationship and build strength among other nonprofits. We’re not in competition. We’re in collaboration to provide the best services for Douglas County,” she said.